The spiritual condition of the clergy is often reflected in the general believers. The ministers who preach sound theology and practice godliness give clear direction to the people, who can then apply biblical precepts to their life and thought, resulting in godly living. Now, contrary to what many people believe, Christians must obey even hypocritical ministers as long as these ministers teach sound doctrine, even if they disobey it
themselves: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach" (Matthew 23:2-3). Therefore, providing biblical teaching without personal examples should be sufficient to command obedience in the people; nevertheless, Scripture commands a minister to be a good example to the people by his godly conduct, so that he does not become a hypocrite in denying what he preaches by his sinful behavior (Titus 1:16). In any case, a person can never excuse his disobedience by pointing to hypocritical ministers. Each of us will give an account to God.
In other words, a person must not require an example to model after before he obeys God, but he should only require knowledge of what God commands; however, it remains a minister's duty to be an example of godly living (1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Corinthians 9:27). Without personal examples, some people might find it more difficult to apply God's word to their lives; nevertheless, when there is no one who can serve as an example of godly living, a Christian should still be able to obey God by imitating Christ based on the information about him in Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; John 10:4-5; Hebrews 12:2).
The fact that ministers carry the responsibility of teaching and obeying the word of God (Matthew 5:19) does not mean that the rest of the people are blameless when spiritual decline occurs. The Bible notes that even when there is nothing wrong with the ministers, the people often rebel against the Lord: "But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted" (Ezekiel 3:7); "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Since apostasy cannot be blamed solely on the clergy, Malachi turns to address the people, and reprimands them for their lack of devotion to the Lord.
God first reminds the hearers of his immutability, saying, "I am the Lord, I change not" (v. 6). God's attributes remains the same, and they will never change. He is not subject to any external influence, and he is eternal so that there is no before or after in his being, so that he does not change. His omniscience implies that he has no succession of thoughts, and therefore he does not change his mind. His knowledge and decisions eternally exist in his mind, and are not subject to alteration. Since he knows all, he does not gain knowledge, and nothing surprises him. Since he is eternally immutable and comprehensively perfect, he never becomes better or worse.